Sun Yuan, b. 1972, Beijing; Peng Yu, b. 1974, Jiamusi, Heilongjiang Province, China
The nothingness of life mirrored in a programmed sequence of movements. Ever more hopeless, slower and “looking older”, the robotic arm erected by the artist couple Sun Yuan & Peng Yu in the Guggenheim New York has been assembling its blood-like life fluid since 2016. It is not without reason that people find themselves in the repetitive ‘lifestyle’ of this ignorant object.
The installation “Can’t Help Myself” offers space for reflection on our everyday life and penetrates to the question of the meaning of life. She combines birth, life and death in a playful way until the initially energetic and organic arm comes to a standstill in 2019. After such a long time of fighting, the arm seems to be coming to an end after all the exhaustion. The unease triggered by voyeurism leaves emotional traces in visitors, despite its lack of emotion.
“No piece of art has ever emotionally affected me the way this robot arm piece has. […] The arm slowly came to a halt and died in 2019, but with a twist – the bot, called a kuka servo, actually runs off of electricity, not hydraulics, so it was working its entire life towards something it didn’t even need, tricked by the system it was brought into. So now I’m crying over a robot 😭” comments the musician Kricked.
“According to the artists, the robot provokes an absurd, Sisyphusian view of current issues related to migration and sovereignty. The bloodstains collected in the cage are intended to remind of the violence resulting from surveillance and guarding of border areas.”
loosetooth.com, Dec 02, 2021, https://www.loosetooth.com/blog/can-t-help-myself-by-sun-yuan-peng-yu
Guggenheim.com, 2016, https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/34812
Classenfahrt, Fabian Fröhlich & ilbolive / Stefano Gueraldi, 2019, https://www.classenfahrt.de/artikel/bcanrt-help-myselfl-(2016)-444/